“Dumpsterpieces,” that’s what former Traverse City commissioner, Scott Hardy, calls the works of public art that 30 Westwoods Elementary School first and fifth grade students created.

The “dumpsterpieces”, which are artworks that utilize the dumpsters of downtown Traverse City as their canvases, can be seen in the alley between Front and State Streets, bounded by Union and Cass Streets.


These works of art were the brainchildren of Scott Hardy. Hardy was inspired to beautify the dumpsters because his wife, Cindy Hardy, owns Lilies of the Alley, a flower shop that is located in the alley between Front and State Streets. There was a dumpster outside of the storefront that they did not want to be an eyesore to customers. “We thought, ‘well, we’re going to have to live with this thing,’” Mr. Hardy said, “so we came up with idea of painting the dumpsters.”

He then presented the idea to the late Executive Director of Traverse City’s Downtown Development Authority, Bryan Crough, who fully supported the idea and helped Hardy gain the support of American Waste, the company in charge of garbage collection for the Traverse City area, and the Traverse City Area Public Schools.

“ Bryan, Cindy and I talked frequently about making the alley between Front and State and Union and Cass more of a shopping area,” Hardy said. “Bryan helped us secure sponsors for the dumpsters, did press releases announcing our painting day and helped with our bookkeeping.”

With Crough’s support, Hardy then went on to get Westwoods Elementary School involved in the project. Both first grade and fifth grade students were involved in the project. Prior to painting the dumpsters, the student researched landmarks in Traverse City, decided on the designs and then local artists, Glenn Wolff, Jean Larson, Chase Hunt and Nancy Nash, assisted the students in making their visions a reality.

“The subject matter and content came from the students which is one thing that I really liked about the project,” artist Glenn Wolff explained. “The Westwood students did the designs and the professional artists who helped paint were really just facilitators. We helped them enlarge and adapt the designs to the dumpsters. They did the lion's share of the painting and our goal was to preserve as much of their content as possible.”

On May 18, roughly 30 students gathered to paint eight dumpsters at American Waste’s facility in Traverse City.  Each professional artist had team of students to work on two dumpsters.

After being painted with a vandalism resistant coating, the dumpsters were delivered on June 1. So far, the program and the “dumpsterpieces” have received a positive response from Traverse City residents, merchants and American Waste. American Waste would even like to expand the program and paint every dumpster in downtown Traverse City. “Based on the public response and the incredible learning experience the students at TCAPS had we hope to do more dumpsters in different areas of the downtown,” Hardy said. 

Photo(s) by Scott Hardy